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LA Times Columnist: After Gun Ban Decision, Judge Needs To Go

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Columnists like George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times should actually be rethinking their position on trying to ban the most popular rifle in the country, but instead of doing some Second Amendment soul searching, the longtime political commentator has decided that Judge Roger Benitez’s decision striking down California’s ban on so-called assault weapons is instead evidence that Benitez has been on the bench for too long.

Like many on the Left, Skelton is aghast that Benitez compared the utility of the AR-15; which is used by law-abiding owners for self-defense, competition, hunting, and other lawful activities, to a Swiss Army knife. It was a throwaway line that bears little weight in the 94-page opinion in which Benitez exhaustively explains why California’s gun ban doesn’t pass constitutional muster, but for Skelton that one comparison means Benitez needs to go.

Look, I never went to law school. But I know the difference between a Swiss Army knife and an AR-15.

You can use a well-equipped Swiss Army knife as a screwdriver, a leather punch or scissors. You can open a beer bottle or sharpen a pencil or carve your initials into a gun stock.

And you can stab someone, but not kill a dozen or more innocent people within seconds.

An AR-15 is designed for one thing when equipped with a high-capacity ammunition magazine, another deadly tool Benitez has ruled is protected by the 2nd Amendment. And that purpose is mass shooting. It has a proven track record.

With that firearm — holding, say, 30 bullets — you can mow down lots of stunned co-workers, shoppers or schoolchildren without pausing to reload.

You’re pretty safe from being rushed by some desperate victim.

A Swiss Army knife has about as much in common with an AR-15 as a tricycle does with an Indy 500 race car.

Last time I checked, there’s nothing stopping anyone from purchasing or possessing either a tricycle or an Indy 500 race car, so I’m not sure that Skelton’s preferred comparison actually helps make his case that AR-15s are somehow uniquely dangerous items that should be banned. Instead, Skelton falsely claims that AR-15s are “designed” for mass murder, even though rifles of any kind are used in fewer homicides in the United States than knives or even fists and feet.

That’s not the only awful argument from the L.A. Times columnist.

“The Bill of Rights prevents the tyranny of the majority from taking away the rights of a minority,” the judge wrote in his opinion.

Sure, but in a democracy, there’s also something called majority rule.

Majority rule doesn’t extend to stripping those in the minority of their individual right via legislation. If a majority of the American people want to change the Constitution and repeal the Second Amendment, there’s a process for them to do so. The fact is, though, that such a repeal wouldn’t get through Congress, and there’s no chance that 38 states would ratify any amendment to the Constitution declaring the Second Amendment null and void.

“The 2nd Amendment protects any law-abiding citizen’s right to choose to be armed to defend himself, his family and his home,” the judge said. “At the same time, the 2nd Amendment protects a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms to use should the militia be needed to fight against invaders, terrorists and tyrants.”

On his first point, all these bad guys are law-abiding until they’re not. Then they sometimes become heavily armed mass killers.

The same could be said of anyone who owns a car: they’re all legal drivers until they’re not. Sometimes they become heavily intoxicated drunk drivers.

Or what about extending that analogy to the First Amendment? Everyone has the potential to say libelous and slanderous things, so should we prevent people from speaking their mind in the first place on the theory that we’ll stop libelous statements from being made?

And on the second point, the judge sounds like a garden-variety conspiracy theorist, fearful of a foreign invasion that overwhelms our best-in-the-world military. Or he’s scared there’ll be a tyrant regime in Washington.

… The judge’s lengthy opinion is replete with the need for “militia readiness.”

“The versatile AR-15 type of modern rifle is the perfect firearm for a citizen to bring for militia service,” Benitez said. “It has been argued that citizens with nothing more than modern rifles will have no chance against an army with tanks and missiles.

“But someone forgot to tell Fidel Castro, who with an initial force of 20 to 80 men armed with M-1 carbines, walked into power in Havana in spite of Cuba’s militarized forces.”

The Havana-born Benitez, 70, was nominated to California’s Southern District bench by Republican President George W. Bush in 2003.

In other words, Benitez sounds less like a conspiracy theorist and more like someone with first-hand experience with the establishment of a tyrannical regime in a modern country.

Skelton’s huffing and puffing over Benitez only demonstrates that anti-gun activists really don’t have a good argument when it comes to banning the most commonly-sold rifle in America today.

“It’s designed for mass murder!” No it’s not, and in fact these rifles are used in just a handful of violent crimes every year.

“They’re too dangerous for civilians to own!” American citizens already own more than 20-million AR-style rifles, and again, homicides involving knives are more common than homicides in which a rifle of any kind were used as the murder weapon.

“They’re weapons of war!” No, they’re not. These are semi-automatic firearms that have been on the civilian market since the early 1960s, and no branch of our military issues AR-15s to service members for use on a battlefield.

Skelton may not be able to accept this, but the simple fact is that Judge Benitez made the correct decision in striking down the state’s ban on so-called assault weapons. If George Skelton doesn’t like it, then he should get to work on an attempt to repeal the Second Amendment instead of arguing that we should all pretend the amendment doesn’t actually mean what it specifically says.